The Soap Cabin

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p.s.

It’s funny how you don’t see what’s right in front of you. In my last post I told you that the only product we use plastic packaging with are our soaps. Since posting I realised our gift/display boxes have plastic lids so you can see what is in them – doh! Anyway, our intention to reduce plastic remains!

In the meantime I have been very happy with our new The Soap Cabin stickers and business cards which are getting our logo out there. Our next job is to redesign our soap labels to include the logo.

We are looking into which events to sell at this year and will let you know here and on our website very soon 😀

Environmentally Speaking

Microbeads
Image courtesy of The Science Explorer

We heard in the news last week that the government has banned the use of plastic microbeads in the manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products. This is great news! As you may be aware, plastic microbeads are found in many products, such as exfoliating face scrubs, toothpastes, hand washes and many more. They are a cheap alternative to using say, ground coconut shell, but unfortunately they get washed down the plug hole and end up in our oceans where they are ingested by marine life – frightening! You might have seen the BBC’s Blue Planet II recently, which highlighted this terrible issue and how it is affecting our sea creatures.

You will be pleased to know that The Soap Cabin has never and will never use microbeads in our products. We are all about natural ingredients, so we use natural exfoliants including poppy seeds and pumice powder which, being naturally occurring, break down over time.

Plastic in itself is a bigger issue because so many products come encased in (far too much) plastic, which just ends up in landfill because it doesn’t biodegrade. The only plastic we currently use is in our soap packaging (cellophane wrap) because the soaps are vegetable glycerine-based and have to be kept air-tight to prevent attracting water and sweating. Although this is less wasteful than a hand wash bottle, it’s still plastic and something we want to think about going forward.

Read more here about the microbead ban.

Things I’ve Learned Watching Dragon’s Den

I regularly tune into to watch BBC’s Dragon’s Den and have been watching it ever since the days of Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Sauce. Business owners, entrepreneurs, inventors and wheeler dealers go on the show to pitch their business or invention to the panel of Dragons, which have included business power houses such as Hilary Devey, Kelly Hoppen, and Peter Jones for a large investment and a percentage of equity in their business.

Someone asked me jokingly if I would be applying to go on Dragon’s Den with The Soap Cabin. Firstly:

  • The Dragons want the finished, already hugely successful product or business. It should already be turning over LOTS of money and you MUST know your figures!
  • You cannot remain ‘handmade’ or ‘British made’. For the dragons to see a return on their investment, you HAVE to go big or go home. You just cannot compete with cheap manufacture in China or Taiwan if you want to scale up. Scaling up to national or international level means mass production to meet demand and therefore you can kiss truly handmade production goodbye. Many of the pitchers have been disappointed because they thought the Dragons would just give them money and then guidance on producing their product quicker. They wanted success immediately, so the Dragons ask if they are willing to move production to India. They say ‘no’ and it’s over.

You HAVE to go big or go home

  • We want to remain a handmade, British cottage industry, small batch producer with a personal touch, which is why we firstly aimed at our local area to build relationships through face-to-face interactions and word-of-mouth, therefore building the significance of our web presence, rather than it just being another cold website among millions. We are also currently able to cope with our orders and adjust as we see fit. Handmade is in. People increasingly want to know how their stuff is made, where it comes from and what’s in it; probably a reaction to mass production. Several handmade businesses who went on the show were actually advised to just keep doing what they’re doing because otherwise it would mean moving production abroad and their products would no longer be British, bespoke or unique.

Handmade is in

  • Less than half of successful pitches on Dragon’s Den actually get investment. Many pitchers have dropped out after their TV appearance brought them interest and increased sales, or they received a better deal from elsewhere after the TV show airing. There are also the cases of people being overwhelmed, changing their mind about handing over equity in their business, not wanting to go that big immediately, or the usual issues with patents. Read more here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/02/11/half-of-dragons-den-investments-fall-through-after-the-show/

I read an article this week by a lady who had a handmade soap business in the USA. In the article she was actually explaining why she had closed her business. To sum it up, she wanted instant success and went too big too soon:

  • She went on TV with her soaps, orders increased beyond what she could fulfil
  • She had soaps in loads of stores nationally and…orders increased beyond what she could fulfil
  • One store she pitched to wanted her to drop her price to fit with their range. This will ALWAYS happen when you try to put your products in a national chain. Margins will be squeezed!
  • She was told she needed to have more than just soap in her range, but wasn’t interested. I learnt this fairly near the beginning of our Soap Cabin venture when doing our first ever market stall, because it is strikingly obvious on a stall table when you only have one type of product. Variety and type of product draws people in. We expanded to making body butters, aromatherapy oils, bath bombs (have since dropped these) and selling bath accessories. The lady in the article took the advice to mean mugs and T-shirts?!?

I don’t believe real success is instant, and I believe success is in the eye of the beholder. The reason I’ve been thinking about this is because someone at a party recently asked if I was interested in getting into department stores because they have many buyer contacts through their work. It is great to be presented with that opportunity, but I am keen to stick with our ethos of handmade, small batch for the time being. Also, as mentioned above,there is the practicality of fulfilling the quantity required. I have seen the national store thing work for Neals Yard and Tisserand, who are both in Waitrose and John Lewis, but they have been going for quite a while on the aromatherapy scene and work quite well in that environment. But I notice other natural soap-type products in those stores gradually creeping to the dusty bottom shelf; they are like a small fish in a big pond and I’m not sure I want The Soap Cabin to get lost in that environment.

Anyway, lots to think about; but we’re definitely not applying to Dragon’s Den!

Website vs Facebook

When you have a business, it is a good idea to have an online presence, like a website, and perhaps a few social media sites.
Your website doesn’t have to be big and flashy with moving images and music, but it should have basic details that someone may be interested to know:

  • Business name
  • What you do/provide/etc
  • How can you be contacted
  • Location plus opening & closing times if you have a physical location

I was sitting in traffic recently, behind a car that was branded really nicely with the owner’s business (I think it was mobile pet grooming), but when I looked for the web address, there was a long-winded FACEBOOK address, that I forgot as soon as they moved off and some random @hotmail address.

Now there is nothing wrong with having a Facebook business page. We have one. Many people do. But that is not our main thing. It’s all about our website, http://www.thesoapcabin.co.uk. For us, Facebook is mainly for publicising the events we will be at, photographs of our products, sharing articles, news and fun stuff and pointing people to our website, shop and blog. These days it is soooooo easy to create your own website using platforms such as WordPress 🙂 or Moonfruit to name just two, and you can design it in your own unique style, or use an existing free template. It’s not like the days where I was sat down at a desk with ‘Learn HTML’ trying to figure out how to script a website on Afro Hair. (Actually, I still have those files on Floppy Disk LOL).

On quite a few occasions I have been interested in a small business I have come across, but when I search for them online, all I’ve found is a Facebook page which hasn’t been updated in 4 years, and there aren’t any apparent contact details, which leads me to wonder if the business is still in existence.
In that sense, Facebook can actually end up being bad publicity for your business if you don’t update it regularly, or respond to posts quickly enough. With a website, once the information is up, it can stay as it is until you want to update it again. (However, this is not true of blogs, which will also reveal that you haven’t written anything recently).

Facebook is also a huge pond for both big and small fish and a place to get easily distracted onto other things. I have ‘liked’ several friends’ business pages on Facebook, but it doesn’t really make me visit their page, their posts are rarely high up on my newsfeed and I’ve never purchased anything through Facebook, plus not sure I want to. If anything, it becomes another one in a long list of social noise.
Likes do not necessarily translate into sales.

Facebook also controls how many people see your business page posts, so if you want a guarantee of big views, you’re going to have to cough up the cash to ‘boost’ or promote your post. I heard it was something like only 15% of people* will see your posts otherwise. You are also at the mercy of their constant privacy changes, layout changes and other tweaks. Or they could just pull the plug one day…

If you really want to get some extra publicity and genuine interest, start a blog, chat about what you do and get people looking at your website.

I know I am a bit of a rebel, and people have been getting on at me lately about Whatsapp (Whatsthat?), but I feel really passionate about this – stop relying on Zuckerberg to do the work for you!

Useful reading:

*http://www.websitetooltester.com/en/blog/facebook-page-vs-business-website/

http://www.senseimarketing.com/your-business-doesnt-need-a-facebook-page/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140407174550-13892448-why-you-don-t-need-a-facebook-page-for-your-business
http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/can-a-facebook-page-replace-a-small-business-website/623907

Spotlight on Hay Fever

Blossom

Hay fever is a real pain in the backside. Itchy eyes, ears, nose, throat, permanently bunged up nose, headaches…it can ruin your summer and disrupt your day to day life. My poor mum used to suffer terribly and got to the point of having to get the hay fever jab before the Spring arrived. I also get the symptoms when the Spring begins, but it varies from year to year how bad it is. I had an allergy test at the doctor’s a few years ago and the results said I was allergic to grass pollen, tree pollen, dust mites and nickel. Reading around, I realised that the allergy I developed to raw apples and fruits with stones (like peaches and plums) were linked to the allergy to birch tree pollen as they share similar proteins.

When do your hay fever symptoms appear?

  • Mid March-Mid June  = Birch tree pollen
  • Late May – Mid Sept = Grass pollen
  • Late Summer = Weed pollen
  • Autumn (mainly indoors) = Mould spores
  • April – May (in big city) = Plane tree pollen + pollution
  • All year round = Pet dander, mould spores, fungal spores, dust mites etc

(50 Things You Can Do to Manage Hay Fever)

Check out the pollen forecast for more information: http://www.pollenforecast.org

So how to manage it? Here are some tips I have collected over the years.

  • Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect your eyes
  • Put a layer of Vaseline around and just inside your nostrils to trap the pollen
  • Keep windows closed
  • Swap contact lenses for glasses during peak season
  • Drink chilled water before leaving the house to calm your system down
  • Dry washing indoors so it doesn’t get pollen all over it
  • When you got home, shower, change clothes and launder your outdoor clothes
  • Avoid damp woodland
  • Keep car windows closed and put air con on in re-circulate mode
  • Avoid gardening and mowing the lawn
  • Ask someone to brush or wash pets that have been outdoors
  • Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum (Dyson do a good one)
  • Try drinking nettle tea
  • Try eating locally produced honey before symptoms usually begin
  • Avoid or reduce stress where possible
  • Avoid smoky environments or give up smoking!

I find that chemical household sprays make me sneeze, so I tend to use homemade cleaners . Good alternatives to have in your cupboard are borax, bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar, citric acid, olive oil and tea tree oil.

Perfumes and spray deodorants also tend to irritate the nose, so switch over to perfume oils (Body Shop does a good collection of exotic scents) or rollerball essential oil blends for something therapeutic (check out Neal’s Yard or Tisserand) and use stick or roll-on deodorants. (I would say switch to non-spray deodorants regardless of whether you have hay fever or not because of what you are probably breathing in on a daily basis).

For more tips, check out this great reading list:

Stock Photo courtesy of xedos4 @ freedigitalphotos.net

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